Elbert County, Colorado History and Genealogy

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sheep and Cattle in 1880 Elbert County

Today John and I drove through eastern Elbert County, taking pictures, locating old towns and cemeteries. The picture above is Bijou Basin taken from County Road 150 north of Highway 86. We've had a very dry winter, as you can see. Hoping for a spring blizzard or two to give us some needed moisture.

When we got home, I started looking through 1880 Elbert County census records on Heritage Quest (available through the Elbert County Library District) and ran across a very interesting household:

Yes, your eyes are seeing right - that's a cattle owner and a sheep owner in the same household! Not only that, but there are 2 cowpunchers and 1 sheepherder there, too. Along with a bookkeeper and a brakeman for the railroad. The house was in the "East of West Bijou Basin Creek" precinct, which means it could have been anywhere from West Bijou Creek to the Colorado state line, Elbert County's eastern boundary at the time. It's interesting to note that the two proprietors had not lived in Elbert County before the census was taken. And the longest any of the other men had lived in Elbert County was 8 months.

Sheep and cattle wars were taking place in the west at this time. The 1880 Agriculture Census shows Elbert County had 66,803 sheep while its cattle numbers were 12,275 range cattle and 1,582 milk cows. 37 percent of the sheep in the state Colorado were in El Paso, Huerfano, Larimer and western Elbert counties. Weld and Elbert counties held a fraction over 37 percent of the cattle in eastern Colorado.

As far as I know, Elbert County didn't have any major sheepmen and cattlemen confrontations. Eventually, cattle took over as the leading stock in Elbert County.


  1. Your post makes me think of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song: "Oh the farmer and the cowman should be friends!"

  2. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  3. That was an interesting household. I often get sidetracked when researching just reading about others - especially in old newspapers & court records. The stories & information is so interesting.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  4. How about that! My dad was a cowboy from the old school (born 1887. He loved horses, liked working range cattle, tolerated milkcows, and hated sheep.

  5. Hiya! I'm wondering if you can help me. I'm looking for information on my great-great-grandfather, Alexander Hamilton Robinson, who lived in Elbert according to the 1880 census and was a sheepherder. His wife was named Martha (Logan). He was approximately 38 at the time of the census. I have from a distant relative that they were on a place called Byrom Ranch. Do you have any information about this or can you point me in the right direction? As I'm living here in COS I thought it would be great to see what family history I could dig up. Thanks for your help!